The past few years around Christmastime, I’ve been researching Christmas tree allergies. I have not-so-fond memories of, as a youth, getting sick around exams right before Christmas. The timing was always impeccable. And retrospectively, I wonder if it was due to the arrival of our Christmas tree. My dad would spend a week decorating it (read about how we decorated our tree this year)… and I would spend at least a week being sick.
Apparently, there’s even a term for this. Christmas Tree Syndrome. Here are a few articles I found on the matter of Christmas tree allergies:
- Allergic to the Christmas Tree?
- Allergies During the Holidays (WebMD)
- Allergies & Christmas Trees (American Christmas Tree Association)
- 9 Ways to Have Allergy-Free Holidays
- Allergies, Asthma and Winter Holidays (American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology)
- Holiday Allergies (Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America)
To summarize, when you bring a live tree inside, it typically harbors tons of mold spores. Along with the tree’s own pollen, there is usually dust and other organic matter on the tree as well.
So, allergy sufferers, be forewarned.
But it’s not like artificial trees are all that much better… they still harbor dust and whatever else is hanging out in your storage area. And artificial Christmas trees lack the charisma of real Christmas trees.
We had an artificial tree for a year or two, when we were first married. It wasn’t our cup of tea. We got rid of it, and have cut down real trees for Christmas ever since. So, what can be done to minimize Christmas tree allergies?
Well, in my research, I discovered a number of suggestions in forums. These ideas went the full range:
- Get a Leyland Cypress (they’re sterile, so produce no pollen)
- Test exposure to different tree species to see if any are less problematic
- Wash the tree down with a garden hose (problematic here in Michigan)
- Wash the tree with a diluted bleach solution
- Remove loose debris from the tree with a leaf blower
- Use bursts of air from an air compressor to remove debris
- Have the tree farm run your tree through a tree shaker
- Shake the tree yourself by hand
- Run an air purifier
- Leave the tree up for only a short time (under a week)
Our Plan to Minimize Christmas Tree Allergies
So, with all that advice, what did we ultimately do to (hopefully) minimize Christmas tree allergies in our house this year?
We did the following:
- Bought a freshly cut tree (we did the cutting ourselves)
- Had the tree farm shake the tree to remove loose debris, dust and spores.
- Rinsed tree off in garage, drenched it with two batches of my tree allergy prevention recipe (1 gal. water, 1 c. vinegar, 4 drops eucalyptus oil essential oil #afflink).
- Left tree in garage to dry with fan blowing on it overnight.
- Brought out our air purifier, which will be on continually (we have an older model of this Oreck Professional Air Purifier #afflink).
- Decided to diffuse essential oils once daily (4 drops Thieves essential oil, 3 drops Eucalyptus essential oil #afflinks)
We also selected a different type of tree than our usual. After talking with the nice folks at Westman’s Tree Farm (just north of Dexter), we decided to forgo the usual blue spruce and get something different (I think it was a Douglass spruce?).
UPDATE: Christmas came and went… we had the tree up for about two weeks, with nary a sign of Christmas tree syndrome! One thing we did do, in addition to my action plan items listed above, was to air out the house a couple times (including after we removed the tree from the house). Yes, it was cold to open all the windows, but letting the fresh air in was worth it.
What about you? Do you have any tips to add to the list? Share in the comments section!